Soccer….Family Style

Monday Massacre… I May Be Falling for Barcelona
November 30, 2010, 3:20 am
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I have several friends that have been trying to convert me to a club fan. No one can seem to believe that I’m so devoted to my national team, and yet have practically no opinion on club soccer on any level. My high school friend Larry has been trying to sell me on any number of European leagues. Fellow Des Moines resident Chad has been working on my MLS devotion (Seattle specifically). My Des Moines American Outlaws brothers make a strong case for the Fire. But I just haven’t had that moment when I felt like I could really get passionate about a team. I mean, if you’ve read the rest of my blog, you know it’s serious business when I get passionate about a team.

A girl’s got to feel connected to a team on a deeper level. I have had trysts with teams that various US player have played for, but it was more like stalking Brad Friedel (yes, I still love him…I was pregnant at the 2002 World Cup…I think it’s a hormone thing). I’m not the typical girl looking for hot players and a cute kit. I mean, not that those things hurt… but there has to be exciting soccer, and some sort of compelling story behind the team. I’ve been dating various teams around the world, hoping to meet some team that was meant for me, but so far, it’s just been a few good makeout sessions with Chicago Fire.

But then, my friend Juan (@JuanCadenillas) tweeted this blind date setup for me: “fyi: El Clasico #Barcelona vs. #RealMadrid today at #ESPN3 (cc @AmericanOutlaws @TanyaKeith @AODesMoines)…Go Barca!” Someone introducing me to a team on a Monday? When my retail world has actually slowed down enough to watch most of the game? Perfect. So I pop open ESPN3 and after a quick review of the just completed Women’s World Cup draw, I popped open the game. I have no idea who these teams are beyond name, no idea why it’s called El Classico. I’m up for a good soccer game any day, but especially my easy day at the store.

I start watching and it’s an exciting game. Beautiful soccer played by gorgeous men, and while I recognize several stars, there’s no Blanco or other players off my “I hate you because of all the times USMNT has been done wrong by you” list (that’s what kept me away from the Fire for so long). I’m really enjoying this game. I got busy at work and missed most of the second half, but I knew my husband wouldn’t complain about watching soccer after dinner.

So after we got the kids settled, I asked if we could turn off the NFL (I know, I was surprised too…we may need to get him checked) and turn on real football. We watched the game and I got to ask my resident club soccer expert husband about my new soccer boyfriend. We talked about history, players, and my favorite, sponsorship. I was asking about the Barcelona jerseys, which have Unicef as the sponsor. We support Unicef through my store, and when Doug told me that Barca donated the shirts several years ago to the children’s charity.

Barcelona scored 5 goals, some of which were quite pretty. The diving was over-shadowed by player skill. It was fun to watch and engaging. Then, at the end, a hockey game broke out! I love these hotheaded Spanish players.

How is it that no one has introduced me to Barcelona before? Or maybe they have, and I just wasn’t ready to take a club team into my heart. Messi did have that horrible dive today…sometimes that’s all it takes to turn me off. But today felt like something special. I have a new team that I’m going steady with. Could be that this is making it onto my Hanukkah list. Or a scarf…or tickets to Barcelona. Whichever.


Girl Fight
November 27, 2010, 1:41 pm
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1999 was one of those blissful pre-kid, pre-business owner years for me, when I could pick up and go to soccer games whenever I wanted, and I was a newly minted US soccer ultra fan, despite our performance in 1998 France World Cup. I wanted to see as many Women’s World Cup games as I could. My mom had a contact in New Jersey that was able to get us tickets to the opening match, which remains the only game I’ve seen with my mom (and I wasn’t even that rowdy at that game!)

That was all it took. I was hooked on the Women’s World Cup and continued on to games in Chicago and the final in Pasadena. Americans clearly loved soccer, but I remember talking with my travel buddies that night as we relaxed around the hotel pool after the final about how this was quite possibly the pinnacle for the USWNT. We hypothesized that it was only a matter of time until the rest of the world caught up to our skill level, and an unknown whether the US could support a professional women’s soccer league.

So here we are, eleven years later. Women’s professional soccer has sputtered and struggled along over the last decade. And the USWNT had become so dominant, that I think people forgot to support them. I took my daughter to a USWNT World Cup game in 2003, but I haven’t traveled the world for them as I have the Men’s team (there are limits to money and vacation time after all). We assumed that the US Women would qualify for 2011 Germany, and we’d go visit family and see them there.

Then, the unthinkable happened. We didn’t advance. And now we’re playing for our WWC lives today in Chicago. In our family, we’ve decided it’s time to start supporting the Women’s game, and I know we’re not alone. It’s fun to read women’s soccer fans learning about American Outlaws, and awesome to see American Outlaws coming out to support not just the USMNT. It makes me proud, as a soccer fan and a mother to a daughter that America has woken up to the fact that we can’t just assume our domination of the Women’s game anymore. And now that Mia has retired, we still have some amazing women playing for us, and not just Kristine Lilly (the woman I named my daughter after).

So today, while I dedicate myself to running my retail store on Small Business Saturday, my husband is taking the kids to Chicago with a few other American Outlaws to support US Women’s Soccer. I am very much there in spirit, and hope you will join me in paying a little more attention to the Women’s game. Today. Next Summer. At your local soccer games. We have to encourage our girls to stick with soccer, and continue to build our player and referee development programs for girls. We can’t afford to turn our backs on the rest of the world creeping up behind us any longer. And to the women it has been a pleasure to watch for the last 11+ years, you go girls…all the way to Germany.

To Family Section or Not To Family Section
November 2, 2010, 6:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Match Fit USA posted today about trouble in Australia’s A-League, as well as in MLS, with cursing in the supporters section disrupting the enjoyment of women, in particular mothers with children, who would also be watching the game. It took only minutes for me to get Twitter mentions as the representative of mothers who still want to sit with the supporters. But I’ll go a step further.

I’m a mother who LOVES the supporters section. I will sit with the supporters even if I’m not one of them. I just think it’s more fun to watch a game with the people who are passionate about the game. And yes, I take my 3 year old and 8 year old with me into the supporters section, because they also LOVE singing and chanting and dancing under the banner.

This means that I *gasp* have to talk to my children about how things are in the world. There is “stadium language” that is OK to use at a soccer game that we would NEVER use on a play date. And when possible, we do teach the kids the kid friendly version of cheers. For instance, instead of “You suck, A–hole” our kids know it as “Your socks have holes!” It works, I swear.

There are times when they do pick up some rather nasty language. We took the kids to the Chicago Fire game the night before a USMNT game and in Section 8 (the supporters section). The Fire was playing Columbus Crew, who wears head to toe yellow. And to the tune of “Yellow Submarine”, I notice my 3 year old son had picked up with perfect pronunciation “Why are you such a yellow f—ing team?”

OK, so I wasn’t thrilled, but along with my dread of ever having him sing that song in preschool, I was a little proud. Here was my little guy, singing away with the rest of the supporters. It was the same swell of pride I felt in Germany in 2006 when his then 3-1/2 year old sister led a train full of soccer fans in “Everywhere we go”. I think it’s cool that my kids are supporters, and I’m willing to take the good with the bad. Which is easier for me to post a few weeks after the fact, now that my son has not belted our the Chicago Fire version of Yellow Sub in the middle of the supermarket.

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